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Thursday, 31 May 2018
Page: 5239


Mr WALLACE (Fisher) (12:47): As many of us in this place well know, bullying is no longer restricted to name calling, social exclusion and acts of verbal and physical abuse. These are all very serious and harmful, but bullying in our community today goes much wider than that. The national definition of bullying for Australia's schools says:

Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm.

That definition has long served to capture the essence of the problem. Over the past decade, however, a new avenue of bullying has emerged and has grown explosively: abuse, harassment, intimidation, threats and social exclusion via the internet. It happens in chat rooms, online games, emails, message boards and, most prominently, over social media.

Though the vast majority of interactions over the internet are positive, for anyone struggling with bullying, depression and social isolation the online world can leave them no respite from their suffering. Today the internet has no off button, and it forms a central part of the social lives of most younger people. Mobile phones and constant connectivity can mean that the bullying never stops. Comments can be anonymous and brutal, the isolation unrelenting. At its worst, vulnerable people, who are already worrying that they might be a burden on their loved ones, can end up being encouraged to take their own lives.

Faced with this growing societal problem, the Turnbull government, I am proud to say, has taken action to introduce a range of programs and initiatives to ensure the safety of Australians online. The eSafety Commissioner was established in July 2015, under the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015, to provide online safety information and support. A key function of the commissioner under the online safety act is to administer a two-tiered scheme for the rapid removal of cyberbullying material from large social media sites. A second function is to assist victims of the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, otherwise known as revenge porn. Minister, section 107 of the Enhancing Online Safety Act 2015 requires a review of the act. When will this review be conducted and who will it be conducted by?

Having established a strong personal interest and a high level of concern in this space, I invited the commissioner, Ms Julie Inman Grant, to the electorate of Fisher in February this year to promote the work of the commission and help educate the community on how they can be safer online. Julie was able to talk about the range of programs that are aimed at providing education to children and adults on online safety issues, including cyberbullying—the Young & eSafe youth platform and the introduction of lesson plans and virtual classrooms to help equip young people with the skills of resilience and respect when engaging in the online world—and advice on how they can report cyberbullying. Minister, how many community engagements have been done by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and by what KPI is the office assessing that success?

To date, the eSafety office has successfully resolved some 680 complaints in relation to cyberbullying material, demonstrating a very real need for further investment in this program. Building on this progress, the Turnbull government has now introduced the Enhancing Online Safety (Non-consensual Sharing of Intimate Images) Bill 2018. This landmark legislation looks to prevent the sharing of intimate images online without consent. I'm proud to be part of a government that has listened to victims and is delivering policy that will implement the effective and timely removal of non-consensually shared images. Minister, how many reports of image-based abuse have been reported to the office of eSafety? How successful has the Commissioner been in having image-based abuse removed from the internet?

This bill will introduce a federal civil penalty regime targeted at perpetrators and content hosts who share intimate images without consent. Penalties of up to $105,000 for individuals and up to $525,000 for corporations can be applied for breaches of the prohibition. Civil penalties will allow the eSafety office to take action within hours to quickly remove intimate images and prevent these images from being shared. Could the minister please outline what other important policy measures are being introduced as part of the enhancing online safety bill?